Reflections on an Outport.

Reprinted from The Packet, August 6, 2009
By Ashley Vardy


Few people live here now but for many it will always be ‘home’

Herb Avery has lived in Southport his whole life.

But at age 66, he knows that this small community, located on the southern side of the entrance to Southport Arm, Trinity Bay, is very different to the place where he played as a schoolboy.

Like most Newfoundland outports, Southport – formally known as Fox Harbour – has seen its fair share of changes.

“A lot of things was different,” recalls Avery. “It used to be that this was all small boat fishermen. Me and my brother was fishermen, and we spent 40 years on the water.”

By 1950s and 60s, the Labrador fishery had died, and most fishing in Southport was carried out in local waters for cod and lobster. The community became one of the principal centres in Newfoundland for the production of salted and pickled turbot and also developed a mackerel bar seine fishery with the product being sold to West Indian markets.

“There was always lots of boats comin’ into the harbour. Now there’s just a bit of crab fishing, that’s all,” says Avery.

At the same time, many workers found seasonal employment cutting pulpwood, and the community’s first road connection with the provincial highway made it possible for some to find wage labour at Come by Chance and in Clarenville.

“But I just wanted to be rowing out in the punt,” laughs Avery, “Out on the water like a lot of people. I wanted to be working. I didn’t want to be going to school. I even chopped up my books in the woodshed with the axe when I finished Grade 8. I probably should have gone back to school, that’s what my mother said, but that’s it.”

Before improved roads made it possible for students from Southport to be bused to an integrated central school at Little Heart’s Ease, small local schools accommodated students.

“There was 48 kids in my school (the United) then, and another 48 in the Anglican. Almost a hundred kids and they was all from Southport.”

Today, he says, the total population of Southport is around 50.

When 13 year-old Christian Barron began school last year, he was one of only two school-aged children in the community.

His mother, Rita, was born and raised in Southport, as was his older sister, Kerri.

Rita notes that when Kerri was in school just over five years ago, she was one of several students her own age.

“And when I was growing up,” adds Rita, “there were about 20 of us.”

From 100 to 20 to two, the number of young residents has been steadily decreasing for years.

This factor led to Rita’s decision to move her family to Clarenville.

“It was actually Christian’s idea to make the move,” she says. “There really was no one for him to play with. It’s mostly seniors living there now.”

Avery agrees.

“Yes, it’s mostly older families here now. There’s still a few people here, and most of the houses is occupied,” he says.

“And I’d never leave. No, I don’t think about leaving. I’ve always been here.”

Barron wishes she could say the same.

“But I moved because I had to. I love Southport. I miss the community. It really has that community feel that you just can’t get in a bigger town like Clarenville. But I suppose we haven’t really left,” she says.

“We’ve still got our house there, we haven’t sold.”

While many other picturesque, rural settlements are reinventing themselves as tourist traps, luring buyers from outside the province, Southport has not opted to sell out.

Peggy Hogan, formally of Nova Scotia, is one of two “come-from-aways” currently residing in Southport.

She says community’s homogeneity is more a charm than a hinderance.

“I’ve lived in Newfoundland for over 30 years, and I know that it’s not like some communities like Trinity or Salvage that have been bought up by people from outside the province. In a situation like that, you have the option to just associate with other come-from-aways. But it’s different in Southport. You’re really forced to get to know people – locals – in the community. This place is still pristine.

“People are holding on to their homes, so there’s nothing to buy, really.”

Hogan was one of the fortunate few who was able to obtain property in the community, though her purchase may have been far from conventional.

“I was just driving through about four years ago, and I happened to notice that the General Store was for sale. So, I bought it, and made it my house and work studio.”

Hogan is a vintage clothing and historical costume designer who has worked for various well-known theatre groups including Rising Tide Theatre. She has no regrets about moving her business to the small outport.

“I fell in love with Southport and its people. It’s one of the very few places where there are no shields – no artifice.”

While much has changed in Southport over the past 50 years, the small fishing community still holds the hearts of those who have planted their roots here. Those who are here are determined to stay, those who have left long to return.

The recently arrived are no exception.

“This is home,” says Hogan, “and I’ve decided to stay forever.”


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, September 2019

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.